Aug 11 2010

Magic Cicadas?

Published by at 7:40 am under Insects, Fish, Frogs


I’m sure you’ve heard them.  This summer the cicadas in Pittsburgh are especially loud and are singing all day.  They’re so loud that it sounds like we have an extra brood this year.

The ones we normally hear at dusk are Scissor-grinder Cicadas, so-called because of their sound.  This year we also have Linne’s cicadas, pictured above, who sing during the day.  Both of these bugs fall into the general group called “annual cicadas” even though most species live more than one year — typically two to ten.

Cicadas spend the majority of their lives underground in the larval stage.  Then in the summer of their adulthood they emerge from the ground, mate and die.  Some years the differently aged groups happen to reach maturity at the same time.  For instance the 10-year bugs and the 2-year bugs could emerge during the same summer of the tenth year.

Perhaps 2010 is one of those years when Linne’s and the Scissor-grinders happen to coincide.  At any rate, I know we aren’t hearing from the 17-year cicadas.  The Magicicadas last appeared in 1999 and won’t emerge in Pittsburgh again until 2016.

Magicicadas spend 16 years underground and emerge as an overwhelming population in their 17th year.  They are large, loud bugs with bright orange eyes whose chorus is so loud it’s almost deafening.  They look scary but are basically harmless.  All they want to do is mate so they don’t pay attention to anything except each other.

There are many more species of cicadas and they all make different sounds.  I learned a lot about them on Chuck Tague’s swamp cicada blog and at the Songs of Insects website.

So, no, these aren’t Magicicadas.  We’ll have to wait six more years for the Magic to begin.

(photo by Bruce Marlin from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license.  Click on the photo to see the original.)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Magic Cicadas?”

  1. Anne Marieon 11 Aug 2010 at 11:59 am

    AHA! If I had read this blog yesterday I wouldn’t have been standing in my yard last night having a conversation with a friend wondering why were these bugs are so noisy this year! Once again, a timely, informative and entertaining entry. Thanks!

  2. Anne Marieon 11 Aug 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Another AHA! this *is* today’s entry… so I couldn’t have read it yesterday…
    :-)

  3. John Englishon 11 Aug 2010 at 6:24 pm

    They are providing audio FX to this article as I read it. Could not ask for better timing. I assume they are the Scissor-grinders since it is evening :-) Never knew there were cicadas who were daylight singers.

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